Console Wars – Generation 4

Ah the fourth generation. This is where I really came into things. My first home console was a SNES. My Amiga 500+ was the first computer I really got into. And I had a paper round which meant I could afford a few games from time to time. Also my dad left my mum, which meant he compensated by buying Amiga games.

The fourth generation in the UK was largely about Sega’s Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Computer-wise, you’d have a Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, or if you were rich an IBM PC.

My first taste of 16-bit was the Sega Mega Drive. A couple of friends had them, whilst I had a Game Boy and nothing else. The Mega Drive was a whole new world (and that’s not just a cheap Aladdin reference – one of the best games of the time) and many hours were spent around friends’ houses playing Super Hang On, Castle and World of Illusion, Toejam and Earl, Altered Beast, Golden Axe, Shinobi, Jungle Strike, Moonwalker, Quackshot, Aladdin and of course the wonderful Sonic The Hedgehog games. These are just the cream of the crop. One thing Mega Drive had was lots of games, and owners of the console in my experience had many of them too. There was no Nintendo tax on Sega cartridges!

Later on I became the proud owner of a Commodore Amiga 500+ which my dad brought home unexpected one day. It was the Cartoon Classics pack, which I included Lemmings, Bart vs The Space Mutants, Captain Planet and Deluxe Paint 3. Lemmings was an instant hit for me, I absolutely adored it, and whilst the other games were a bit lame I hadn’t played anything before that was quite as exciting with so many pixels and colours on screen. As I mentioned before, my dad would buy me games, and those that I owned included the sublime Leander, Silly Putty, and R-Type which he and I had played together at the seaside arcades previously. X-Copy was famously used to copy games to blank disks and like everyone else I had a case full of them. Moonstone, The Chaos Engine, Cannon Fodder, Turrican, Another World, Xenon 2, International Karate +, Zool, Rainbow Islands, Speedball 2, Pinball Dreams, and the utterly majestic Robocod are my biggest memories of this time, and I occasionally revisit them all. The Amiga inspired my young mind so much that my first two comic creations were based on two of its games – Lemmings and Silly Putty!

In 1993 I was allowed my first home console. The intention of the Amiga had been to interest me in computers, perhaps to work towards a career in that budding industry. It had become clear that the games were the main draw for me, so I think my mum just gave in. Besides, she seen how all my friends owned a “games machine” of some kind so maybe she felt it was time I should have one.

It was the Super Nintendo that I wanted, because everyone I knew had a Mega Drive already so I’d played those games, and I’d seen two bundles that excited me – Street Fighter II Turbo and Super Mario All Stars. The hype around both bundles was high, and I remember spending evenings staring at both in a catalogue trying to pick one! In the end I went for Mario, having become a big fan of the first two games when renting a NES previously, and seeing value in having four games not one. We were a poor family, my dad had left by this point, and I knew I wouldn’t get too many more games as they cost around £50 each!

When I came home from school and saw the box sat on our dining table I quite probably reacted like N64 kid. That feeling of butterflies in your stomach that I’ve never quite recaptured since. Like the Amiga before, having a limited selection of games to play meant that I got to enjoy the ones I had completely, working my way through each game multiple times – and even coming close to finishing the ridiculously difficult Lost Levels.

Saving my paper round money, I was eventually able to buy The Legend of Zelda A Link to the Past (knowing nothing of it but that it was hyped), Earthworm Jim, and Super Mario World 2 Yoshi’s Island, which I bought on the strength of the beautiful cover art. These were the only games I actually owned, but by swapping with or visiting friends I got to enjoy some good times with Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart, Turtles Tournament Fighter, Street Fighter II Turbo, Starwing, Mystical Ninja, Super Metroid, Secret of Mana, Zombies, and Donkey Kong Country amongst many others fantastic titles.

So those are my experiences of the 16-bit 4th generation. Any of them could be my favourite, but as I feel compelled to pick only one, I’m going with the SNES. Nothing before or since gave me quite that giddy feeling of excitement. And a special mention must be given to Donkey Kong Country – specifically the “Go Ape!” CD that came with it and introduced me to Pop Will Eat Itself and Radiohead!

Want to chat about this further? Find me on Twitter @bitlandgaming.

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